“Intercultural Cities” – Congress vision for an innovative local policy

      Event: Roundtable on “Intercultural Cities” during the Plenary Session 2009 of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

      Date: Wednesday, 4 March 2009 as from 15 h 15

      Location: Hemicycle of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg (France)

      Description of the project: The “Intercultural Cities Programme” includes experience and best practice from 12 European pilot cities*) with regard to recognition of the contribution of different cultural groups for a more inclusive society.

      This project, which is an action programme between the Council of Europe and the European Commission, is the subject of a recommendation and a resolution that the Congress is due to adopt during the Congress, prepared by Jens Nilsson (Sweden, SOC).

      Participants of the roundtable discussion:

      Heinz BUSCHOWSKY, Mayor of Berlin-Neukölln (Germany)

      Adam WASILEWSKI Mayor of Lublin (Poland)

      Dmytro SYCHOV, Mayor of Melitopol (Ukraine)

      Graziano DELRIO, Mayor of Reggio Emilia (Italy

      Thomas FACCHINETTI, Commissioner for Foreign Nationals of the Canton of Neuchâtel (Switzerland)

      Georges KEPENEKIAN, deputy Mayor of Lyon (France).

      Background: Since several decades Europe is facing the challenge of migration and integration of minority and ethnic groups. The “Intercultural Cities”-report of Congress Rapporteur Jens Nilsson recommends a pro-active local policy approach in respect of the following areas:

      - professional integration/jobs

      - housing

      - legal recognition/citizenship

      - political expression/identity building measures

      - education/welfare and

      - media partnerships/awareness raising.

      *) The following cities are involved in the network: Berlin-Neukölln (Germany), Craiova (Romania), London-Greenwhich (UK), Izhevsk (Russian Federation), Lublin (Poland), Lyon (France), Melitopol (Ukraine), Neuchâtel (Switzerland), Oslo (Norway), Patras (Greece), Reggio Emilia (Italy), Subotica (Serbia).

      The main aim of the “Intercultural Cities Programme” is to develop, through the experience of a network of pilot cities, a set of guidelines and instruments to help European cities to manage diverse populations as a source of innovation, creativity, growth and social progress rather than as an obstacle or threat. Inter-culturalism is a policy concept which upholds cultural pluralism within a framework of common values, in particular human rights and fundamental freedoms. It combats discimination and promotes knowledge and mutual understanding. Contrary to multi-culturalism, the notion of inter-culturalism encourages exchange and interaction rather than assimilation or segregation. This requires openness and readiness to adjustments and change from both sides - the majority population as well as from minority groups.

      The “Intercultural Cities” programme does not deny conflicts but it provides cities with instruments for a successful management of conflicts and for the development integrative, future-oriented local policies. Good examples of this approach are to be found in a number of European cities, here only a few of them:

      - Torino (Italy) created a public space where intercultural conflict can be addressed, the “casa dei conflitti”;

      - Reggio Emilia (Italy) opened an intercultural city centre with trained mediators of various language backgrounds;

      - Oslo (Norway) designed an awareness raising campaign, “Oslo – city for all”, to promote the principle of all citizens having the same fundamental rights, duties and responsibilities;

      - Berlin-Neukölln (Germany) developped a twinning model for schools, where migrant children are provided with special support for the acquisition of a standard language knowledge in German;

      - Lyon (France) introduced neighbourhood management projects, such as regular café discussions and meeting points for different ethnic and religious groups;

      - Bradford (United Kingdom) started an initiative to link school pupils of different ethnic and religious background to create new cross-cultural friendships.

      More information: www.coe.int/congress-session



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